The first air conditioning unit was developed by Willis Carrier in 1902, and within a couple of decades, summertime crowds were escaping the heat by flocking to movie theaters equipped with the new technology [source: Bucknell.edu]. But air conditioning had a drawback: It required people to stay indoors to stay cool. Wouldn't it be better if you could wear air conditioning on your body, so you could stroll down the street on the hottest day in July without breaking a sweat?
Futurists dreamed of just that. In 1953, for example, an Iowa newspaper columnist cheerfully predicted that in the future "Zipper suits" with built-in air conditioning units would keep the body cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Such an outfit would eliminate the need for large wardrobes. "When one traveled he would simply tuck a couple of pair of socks in the pockets of his all-weather suit, set the thermostat for 68 degrees and depart," the journalist wrote [source: Sioux Center News].
Decades later, we're getting oh-so-close to a frosty tux. First there was a Japanese company that, in the late 2000s, marketed a shirt with a small built-in fan that could be powered by plugging it into a computer's USB port [source: Chen]. After the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami, when electricity restrictions were strict, Japanese manufacturers made fan-driven air-conditioned clothing using lithium ion batteries as a charge. The jackets, pants and shirts puff with air that circulates in the insulated material, and the company saw robust sales [source: Carbone].